A dog named Asha

The year 2012 was not a good one for us. First, we suffered through a hot, windy summer, spawning a record book drought that shriveled our crops. By fall the relentless winds filled the atmosphere with scorched dust, coloring the sun a surreal shade of red. We watched in anguish as the life quietly drained from every green plant, leaving us in a crunchy world of brown.

Toward the end of September, our beloved old farm dog turned deathly ill and I had to put her down. It was one of the darkest hours of my life. The sun parched earth was so hard that I had to use a pick ax to chop a hole big enough to bury old Shilo.

At the same time my wife discovered a lump in her right breast that was soon diagnosed malignant cancer. Now, we had a winter of surgery and chemotherapy to look forward to.

While all these trials were doing their best to punch the last bit of air from our lungs, a little ray of hope was born to a rogue beagle in the town of St. Edward, seventy-five miles to the east. The tiny white puppy didn’t look like a beagle, nor did it resemble its blue heeler father, but a caring towns person, who just happened to be a friend of our family, discovered it. Kayla called with the news that she found the perfect little puppy to come live with us.

A couple weeks after Teri’s mastectomy and just before her long bout with chemotherapy, we stopped at St. Edward to adopt our new family member. The tiny white puppy had extraordinarily sharp, black eyes set into a pointy face, under a set of floppy ears. It snuggled quivering in my lap as we drove home on that cold December night. We wondered if she would be happy living with these dognappers who stole her away from her mamma.

Teri spent the next couple days exploring names for our new little family member. Reading deep in the recesses of a name book, she looked up and proclaimed, “Asha. It’s an Indian word for ‘hope’. We could use some hope this year.”

Little Asha spent her first couple months with us, lying on Teri’s lap as she fought the effects of chemotherapy. They formed an inseparable bond in the cozy pink blanket that protected them from winter’s chill.

Teri fought the cancer and Asha grew into a farm dog, protecting her family from possums, coons and deer. Her back hair bristled most when the neighboring dog, Trixie came to visit. She didn’t cotton to rival dogs invading her domain. Life for these folks on the farm was good.

Then our world was turned upside down. This spring’s flood came and took our peaceful home in the country, forcing us to move to town. Asha tried to stay on the farm as we worked to rebuild, but she was lonely without us at night so we brought her to town to live in our son’s back yard. She was comfortable enough, but being tethered to a spike in a high fenced yard was much different than the life she was used to.

Whenever we stopped to see her, she would wag her whole body with renewed energy, as if she were saying, “Yippee, we can go home now!” She never gave up hope as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned to months. I took note of her unfailing hope and wished I could apply it to my own life. Then it occurred to me that where hope ends, faith begins. Asha was teaching me a lesson in faith.

Yesterday, Asha got her wish and returned to the farm to live again. This time with a new young family with two little girls. I’m not sure who will be more more blessed — the dog or the girls, but I know down in my heart that life lessons will be learned. As Tom T. Hall’s song goes: “There’s just three things in this old world that’s worth a solitary dime; it’s old dogs and children, and watermelon wine.”

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